In the Democratic primary for Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz faced Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) in a field once filled with candidates. The Forum was on the scene Tuesday night with both candidates and their supporters.
In Forest Hills crowds gathered at the popular eatery, The Flying Pig, on Austin Street, waiting for the arrival of Melinda Katz. Election results flashed repeatedly on TV screens hung throughout the room; intermittent cheers erupted with every blurb on the BP race: polls showed Katz with a ten point lead over challenger Peter Vallone with nearly three-quarters of all precincts reported—victory was here. Katz defeated Vallone by 44.45% to 33.69%, according to unofficial numbers from the Board of Elections.
And in Astoria, Peter Vallone supporters, many of whom have known the candidate since he was a boy, gathered at Studio Square.
“He’s not about big politics, he knows what we need, not what we just desire,” says David Rosasco, the chair of the Woodside Neighborhood Association.
The room was packed with supporters, but the enthusiasm was dampened by TV screens which revealed Katz with a 10-point lead.
It was after 10:30p.m. when Vallone finally arrived, and the crowd had thinned down to only about 100 people. “We took on the world, and we scared the hell out of them,” he said. “I’m proud of the hard work of everyone in this room, and it was an honor to be out there. “
“I called Melinda and told her I’m going to do everything I can to achieve our goals. I’m not going anywhere… We’re still going to fight for Queens.”
Back at the Katz party, campaign staff and team insiders signaled the impending arrival of the candidate. And as they made their way through the pulsating crowd, trading smiles, hugs and handshakes, the excitement ramped up. A combination of anticipation and exuberance filled the room, literally exploding as the door swung open to reveal an exhausted yet energized Katz.
After more hugs, kisses and handshakes, the seasoned politico took the mic. “We stood together,” declared Katz, “and now I will tell you what it means to have the Democratic Party endorsement…it means you win.” Waiting for the cheers to subside, she thanked elected officials, district and community leaders and volunteers for helping get her message out.
“We had a message. And it was well received,” Katz said. “We are a diverse wonderful array of people…we need to make sure that Queens goes forward, that we’re not left behind.”
Katz thanked her sons Carter and Hunter and partner Curtis Sliwa for holding down the home front. “You might still be my favorite Republican,” she joked with Sliwa.
She closed by sharing a special dedication with the crowd, “My father started the Queens Symphony in 1953. My mother founded the Queens Council for the Arts in 1969; me standing here is a culmination of their careers. They died a long time ago, but they had faith in me that I would continue the tradition of public service.” After pausing she continued, “So I dedicate this evening and the win we are going to have in November to both of my parents who dedicated their lives to this borough of Queens. Thank you all!”
Melinda Katz will face Republican Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio on November 5, 2013.
By Patricia Adams and Kate Bubacz